Leaping the Limpopo
Emerging writer/director Karien Cherry is raising the bar for student filmmakers as she casts the spotlight on the familiar reality of the Zimbabwean refugee influx. She talks to Cecile Murray-Louw about why her Honours year shortfilm, I Am Abel, is not just another barefoot-over-the-border account.
C M-L: Having been based in South Africa for the past 7 years, what made you turn your lens back to a Zimbabwean issue for your AFDA final film?
KC: Obviously being a Zimbabwean, the subject of refugees fleeing economic hardship and seeking a better life in South Africa is close to home, yet I feel it is a subject that is both unexplored and over explored. It's an issue a lot of people are aware of and have heard of before, but I don't feel that those stories have been represented in an honest, intimate way. People may feel “Shame, the poor Zimbabwean refugees”, but really not care as it does not affect them. It has always been a collective story. But every Zimbabwean crossing the border has his own story, and it is this which I wanted to make very real and personal.
C M-L: Does xenophobia play a role in the film?
KC: The fear of foreigners is obviously relevant in a social context at the moment but the film is not about xenophobia. It's about another human being's journey. No matter who we are or where we come from we can learn from each other's stories.
C M-L: What do you try and do with this short film?
KC: Anyone who has ever tried to make a film will tell you it's an almost impossible thing to achieve, so I had to tell a story I believe in with my whole heart and could give my blood, sweat and tears, something I feel is meaningful. This film strives to show that a Zimbabwean is just as much a human being as someone from Europe, they just represent human emotions within a different social context and from a different cultural background, and I believe the audience will recognise that.